Women are doing pretty well for ourselves. Just a few decades ago, society expected us to look perfect, act perfect, and be perfect girlfriends, wives, and mothers. Having a career beyond a secretary before marriage was unheard of – much less founding and establishing a business.
While it was becoming less taboo for a woman to start a business, it wasn’t until the United States’ recent recession things really started taking off. Out of necessity, recent college graduates and families alike were looking for any way to make extra money, and the Internet proved to be a crucial part of that. This allowed previously stunted groups like POCs and women to find a foundation to let their voices be heard.
Women have come a long way in the last 50 – even 10 – years, but we still have far to go. Everything from client bias to raising capital has proven a difficult landscape for female entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near backing down.
Instead, we’re rising up and taking names for ourselves, changing history and the market as we go. I don’t know about you, but I feel the power 2019 has for us, and I know things are only going to continue to shift. All we need to do is keep pushing, stand up for ourselves, and work together to make each other stronger.
So, without further ado, here are a few things you can do to push yourself, your business, and female entrepreneurs as a whole to the next level in 2019 and beyond.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Look Aggressive
From our emails and text messages to the way we hold phone conversations and consultations, many of us are guilty of “softening the message”.
In other words, we tend to add “lol” or an emoji to make our texts seem more friendly, even if it’s to a colleague. We also say things like “if you have time” or “it’s just an idea…” to tone down our requests.
It took me a while to watch how I communicate with others – especially men – over any medium. In fact, I still have to read and re-read an email 5 times to make sure I’ve removed all justifications and fluff like “if you don’t mind”.
It’s difficult at first. You don’t want to seem off-putting or aggressive. But I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not aggressive, off-putting, or offensive to be direct and ask for exactly what you want.
Whether you’re raising your prices, scheduling a meeting, or just sending a thank you note to a client, say exactly what you want to say and nothing more. You’ll be amazed at the results you get from it.
2. Be Your Biggest Salesperson
In college, I worked retail at a couple of large chain shoe stores including Payless and DSW. There, I also had to sell something: shoes. As an introverted creative, this always felt way outside of my comfort zone, and I found myself having small anxiety attacks every time I went to work.
Flash forward to today. Selling is still not my forté, but I now fully believe in what I’m offering to my clients: myself. It’s something I’m still working on (hence why my professional word for 2019 is ‘confidence’), but looking back, it’s much easier than trying to sell some shoes or pet products I don’t know very well.
In my experience, many women, especially creatives, struggle with this problem in one way or another. We often struggle with imposter syndrome, comparing ourselves to other’s successes, and not being used to speaking up for ourselves.
But if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that a lot can be done if we stand up for ourselves, have confidence in what we have to offer, and make it known to those who care about how we can help.
As long as you’re solving an actual problem and not just trying to make money off a hoax, selling isn’t bad; it’s simply letting the right people know you’re the right person/product for the job.
3. Keep Showing Up, Unapologetically
This is essentially advice for just any entrepreneur in general, and one we hear often, but it’s a good reminder. Running a business is not easy. Sh*t is going to get difficult.
One night last November, I walked home from a meeting, took off my shoes and jacket, and flopped on my bed feeling completely and utterly defeated. I had $80 in my bank account and the month had just started – I had all my bills left to pay. I was ready to give up, throw in the towel, and start looking for a “real job”.
Two days later, I landed a client that would not only allow me to survive as a business owner, but also give me the time I needed to continue growing my business and prepare for the next low point – because there’s going to be another low point.
When things get rough, just keep pushing. Every story has conflict, yes, but every story also has a resolution. The ones who thrive are going to be the ones who go through the lowest of the lows and make it out alive.
4. Support Other Women-Owned Businesses
As we just finished discussing, entrepreneurship is no walk in the park. It’s a grueling battle between ourselves, our sanity, and the ever-changing market. As such, it’s nearly impossible to do alone.
A small level of competition is healthy – after all, that’s what keeps our businesses running and monopolies from taking over – but collaboration is much stronger. Join Facebook groups (like Female Founders Community or F Bomb Breakfast Club if you’re in Seattle), follow other women on social media, buy from women-owned businesses whenever possible, and encourage each other every step of the way.
Find a good group of female founders who are in the trenches along with you. When you’re with them, talk honestly with each other about how things are really going – don’t just sugarcoat it like you might on social media.
This type of support doesn’t take much time, it’s free, and it can go a long way to help you take your business to the next level through both mental and physical support.
We are on the verge of another revolution. Women and people of color are no longer standing on the side-lines. We’re taking over the business world and we’re thriving.